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Does Mood State Change Risk Taking Tendency in Older Adults?

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Chou, K., Ho, Andy H. Y., Lee, Tatia M. C., (2007). Does Mood State Change Risk Taking Tendency in Older Adults? Journal of Psychology and Aging, 22(2), 310-318.


Everyday, copious amounts of individuals are placed in a variety of moods ranging from happy to sad, to ecstatic, to severely depressed, and a plethora of other emotions. Because of our fluctuating emotional states, it is sometimes difficult for people to make fully competent decisions, especially in the medical field, where a slightly pissed off surgeon may improperly perform an open heart surgical procedure simply because of what made him so mad earlier in the day. Since very few studies have systematically examined the effect of age differences, under the influence of specific mood, on risk taking tendency, Kee-Lee Chou Et Al. performed a study aimed at addressing the question of how positive and negative moods influence risk taking tendency in young and older individuals. It is important to note that two models were used as the basis for this research: the AIM (Affect Infusion Model) suggests that risk taking tendency is increased by positive mood while negative mood decreases risk taking tendency. To further elaborate, individuals in positive moods would perceive risky choices as having a more favorable outcome, consequently raising their willingness to take more risks. On the contrary side, people in negative moods would perceive the world as threatening and thus would be more likely to carefully avoid potential losses. The other model that served as the basis for this research was the MMH (Mood-Maintenance Hypothesis), which predicts a differing outcome where people in euphoric moods have incentive to maintain their state of optimism. However, these type of individuals are not willing to take risks because such action may increase the possibility for substantial losses. For those in a negative mood state, there is a greater potential for acquiring hope as a means to offset their negative mindset.

Goal of the Research

Past research that has touched on this subject matter has largely failed to answer the question of whether the effects of negative and positive moods on risk taking tendency are symmetrical. The socioemotional selectivity theory, which is a key life-span developmental theory on emotional development in adulthood, proposes that older adults tend to focus on emotional satisfaction and meaning rather than on the pursuit of knowledge, of which is the area of focus for a majority of younger adults. The researchers performing this study used this theory in hopes that it would guide their prediction of the patterns of risk taking tendency among younger and older persons in three transient affective states: positive, neutral, and negative states.


Researchers hypothesized that risk taking tendency will be stronger with the impact of a positive affective state in comparison to that of a negative mood state in older adults. Therefore, researchers expect that there will be an asymmetrical impact of positive and negative affective state on risk taking tendency in older adults.


Researchers gathered a total of 188 people to participate in this study and chose to divide participants into two groups: older and younger. The collection of 90 older participants were an average of 67 years old and were members of a community health center in Hong Kong, whereas the collection of 98 younger participants were an average of 20 years old and were recruited from youth centers. It's considerably important to note that the younger group had much higher levels of education than the older group. One third of participants in each group were asked to watch a positive mood-arousing film, while another one third was asked to watch a neutral-mood arousing film, and the remaining one third were asked to watch a negative-mood arousing film. In order to effectively manipulate the personal factors affecting risk taking tendency, balanced ratios of men and women were randomly assigned to one of the three induced mood groups.

The researchers performed this experiment in a quiet room in the community center and youth center and chose to randomly assigned participants to one of three groups: positive mood, neutral mood, and negative mood. In order to prevent a confirmatory bias, all participants were told that they were essentially



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